What Dirk Nowitzki Needs to Succeed with the Dallas Mavericks Again
The Mavs have yet to do anything to tweak their roster from a team that sits 11th in the Western Conference and four-and-a-half games out of a playoff spot.
It's hard to believe that just two years ago, the Mavericks were in the NBA Finals and capturing their first title after besting the Heat in six games.
Led by a healthy and motivated Dirk Nowitzki, and a slew of veteran role players, the Mavericks rode their wave of momentum all the way through the NBA Finals.
A quick look at this highlight package of the Mavericks NBA championship run sees players like Jason Kidd, Jason Terry, Tyson Chandler, JJ Barea, DeShawn Stevenson and Brendan Haywood all playing a big role in the team's championship run.
What do those players all have in common in 2013? None of them are still on the Mavericks roster.
Only Nowitzki and Shawn Marion remain from the championship team that was dismantled piece by piece over the last two seasons.
Last year in their title defense, the Mavericks suffered through a lockout-plagued season, along with the loss of Tyson Chandler inside, and were swept out of the first round by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This year, things have gone from bad to worse for Dallas, as they are just 24-29 and nowhere near making a run at another NBA championship.
This, of course, has been frustrating for Nowitzki. After working as hard as he did to taste success at the highest level, Nowitzki was stripped of the assets that aided him in winning a championship.
Earlier this season at the peak of their struggles, Nowitzki addressed his displeasure with the franchise being in the position they are in.
As you can see, Nowitzki is visibly displeased at the Mavericks decision to let the core of their team go at the chance of landing a big-time free agent in the offseason.
The Mavericks, though, will try it one more time this offseason, despite a total lack of success landing a big name last year. With only four players currently under contract for next season, Dallas will attempt to lure a big-name free agent to come to Texas and play with Nowitzki in 2013-14.
But with the trade deadline for this season now here, how can Dallas look to improve this team going forward?
One thing that Nowitzki desperately needs to have to be successful is a defense-first big man, similar to what Tyson Chandler brought to the table.
Nowitzki and Chandler were able to be so successful together because they made up for each other's inefficiencies. Chandler is a weak offensive player who scores almost all of his points on dunks or putbacks, while Nowitzki is one of the top scorers in the league.
Nowitzki, on the other hand, struggles on defense and often plays small, despite his seven-foot frame. Chandler is a monster defensive player who created a presence down low that took a lot of the pressure off Dirk.
When the Mavericks attempted to replace Chandler with Chris Kaman this season, what they didn't seem to realize is that Kaman and Nowitzki are much too similar to be successful. Like Nowitzki, Kaman is an offensive minded player. Although he is a capable scorer, he brings little defensive or rebounding prowess.
Dallas would be wise to attempt to find someone who can come in and help Nowitzki out on the defensive side of the ball, without demanding too many shots on offense.
While much of the speculation has been about acquiring DeMarcus Cousins or Dwight Howard, there are more realistic options out there for the Mavericks to look at at the center position.
In the offseason, Dallas may be able to land a big trade for a guy like Marcin Gortat or DeAndre Jordan, but because of their contracts, as well as the Mavericks' lack of serious trade pieces, they won't be realistically available until the offseason.
In the immediate future, Dallas (who is still looking to make a playoff push) may want to look at someone like a Timofey Mozgov, Jason Thompson or even an undersized power forward like DeJuan Blair to fill that void temporarily.
The Mavericks also need a point guard who can consistently be a facilitator and get the ball to Nowitzki and O.J. Mayo in a position to be successful.
What is the Mavericks' biggest need?
The jury is still out if Darren Collison is the right fit in Dallas. Collison certainly can score, and he is explosive in the open court, but his assist numbers are very low for a starting point guard, and he still struggles with turnovers.
Obviously, every Mavericks fan's dram would be to lure Rajon Rondo away from Boston and bring him to Dallas when healthy. However, more reasonable options are out there both tomorrow and in the offseason.
Ramon Sessions proved his value last year while with the Lakers and could be a good match for the Mavericks system. Devin Harris is a former Maverick who could come back to the team and re-establish his lead role he played with the team seven years ago when they went to the NBA Finals.
Finally, Dallas needs another bench player who can come into the game and make an impact. Vince Carter has filled in nicely in the role of sixth man this season, scoring 13.0 PPG. However, Carter only has so much left in the tank at age 36. Plus, Carter may very well be looking elsewhere next season, which would leave a big hole on the Mavericks roster.
J.J. Reddick's name is apparently out there, according to Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated (h/t Mike Bianchi of the Orlando Sentinel. Reddick is a guy that can come off the bench and give you instant offense which could be very valuable for Dallas.
Jason Terry was the perfect sixth man when he was playing alongside Nowitzki, and having a guy who can come in and fit that mold playing with Nowitzki for the next several years, is a necessary move to get the Mavericks back on the right track.
Dallas has a lot of work to do if they are going to take advantage of the remaining years Nowitzki has left in him as a superstar.
There are ways that the Mavericks can improve their team before the deadline and try to make a playoff push this season.
However, even if Dallas doesn't improve the roster this season, they simply must go out and acquire a solid group of players next year, who can establish a report with Nowitzki and the rest of the Mavericks roster and bring them back to relevance.
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